Gustave Flaubert on Writing

Gustave Flaubert was an influential French writer who is counted among the greatest novelists in Western literature. He is known especially for his first published novel, Madame Bovary (1857), for his Correspondence, and for his scrupulous devotion to his art and style. The celebrated short story writer Maupassant was a protégé of Flaubert.

  1. The author, in his work, must be like God in the Universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.
  2. Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
  3. To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.
  4. There is no truth. There is only perception.
  5. Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.
  6. Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.
  7. Everything one invents is true, you may be perfectly sure of that. Poetry is as precise as geometry.
  8. Judge the goodness of a book by the energy of the punches it has given you. I believe the greatest characteristic of genius, is, above all, force.
  9. Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living.
  10. Stupidity is something unshakable; nothing attacks it without breaking itself against it; it is of the nature of granite, hard and resistant.
  11. One can be the master of what one does, but never of what one feels.
  12. One arrives at style only with atrocious effort, with fanatical and devoted stubbornness.
  13. You must write for yourself, above all. That is your only hope of creating something beautiful.
  14. One never tires of what is well written, style is life! It is the very blood of thought!
  15. The one way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy.

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